Ugandan/British Asians in UK 


  1. They fled Uganda with nothing, but built a new empire (The Guardian News Service 2002)
  2. UKUgandan Asians: 30 years in Britain June, 2002 BBC
  3. From Uganda to East Anglia (BBC article) 12 September 2002 
  4. Asian Enterprise report in the Times (9 April 1999, page 23)
  5. Ugandan named 6th richest Asian in UK (Sunday Times, April 1998)
  6. "Common Sense on Asylum Seekers" - William Hague's speech  Tuesday April 18, 2000
  7. Amin's wife escapes jail for cockroach café  February 23, 1999 BBC
  8. Thank you Britain for a new life. 18 Sept 97: BY AMIT ROY
  9. Ugandan president to woo back Asians (Sept 29 1997, India Abroad News Service London)
  10. £50 refugee family now self-made millionaires 27 November 1997





Asian Enterprise report in the Times (9 April 1999, page 23)

There was a an article recently in the Times which highlighted the success of Ugandan Asians and commented that it served as a mute reproach to the insular who feared immigration and offered evidence of the benefits of working together. The article was titled "Energy and talent turned refugees into millionaires" and it continued:

As newcomers to Britain, the huddled in wintry airports and temporary reception centres, penniless, shivering and shocked. But the 50,000 Asians expelled in 1972 from Uganda by its then President Idi Amin have turned that tale of woe into a dramatic success story. A list of the 200 richest Asians in Britain, published this week, shows that the bedraggled East African refugees of a quarter century ago are now, with the Chinese community Britain's most high-flying ethnic minority. The courage talent and sheer hard work with which Ugandan and other Asian immigrants rebuilt their lives, in a country whose welcome was tempered with anxiety, have proved a blessing not only for the new millionaires themselves but for the British economy as a whole. Tens of thousands of jobs have been created by expanding Asian businesses, and more will follow. Asian enterprise, still concentrated in the traditional food, fashion and retailing sectors, is now moving into hi-tech and hotel industries and the media. Increasing numbers of business-women are taking their place beside businessmen. The young are taking their place beside, or instead of, their parents; for first generation entrepreneurs foster an early knowledge of management in their children by training them in the businesses they found - then handling them on. The merit of Asian business strategies speaks for itself: the combined wealth of the lists entrepreneurs is more than 7 billion pounds sterling.

The energy that made millionaires of a few is fueling a broader move towards integration and minority achievement in modern Britain..............

It also offers fresh evidence of the benefits of working together to create a genuinely multicultural society.

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Ugandan named 6th richest Asian in UK April 1998

The Sunday Times' ratings of the richest people in the United Kingdom in 1998 placed Uganda's business tycoon Manubhai Madhvani and his family as the sixth richest Asians trading in Britain. In the same ratings Madhvani was also ranked as the 134th richest Briton. This family built up the Kakira Sugar Works and many other businesses both in Uganda and Britain and together with other other Asian families were forced to leave Uganda in 1972 by General Idi Amin.

Madhvani and his brothers found refuge in Britain where they have expanded and become much wealthier than they were in the '70s. 

Interestingly, Madhvanis are closely followed in the multimillionaire rankings in Britain by another East African, Jasminder Singh and his family who own some of the most expensive five Star hotels (Edwardian Hotels) around the world. Singh left Kenya in 1970 and went to Britain to train as an accountant. He left accountancy to build the Edwardian Hotels' chain in which his family owns 85 per cent shares. The chain is said to be worth 200 million Pounds. 

The rich list is headed by the Sainbury family which owns the retailing business which includes the famous Sainsbury supermarkets and are worth £ 3,300m.

In Europe, the Sainsburys are ranked 14th on the rich list. The richest in Europe are Paul Sacher and the Hoffman family who are said to be worth £11.37 billion. However, even Sacher is nothing compared to the United States and the world's richest man, Bill Gates whose wealth is estimated at £ 28.81 billion. The Sultan of Brunei who was the richest man three years ago, is down to third with £ 23.73 billion. 

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"Common Sense on Asylum Seekers" - What the Conservative leader told the Social Market Foundation

William Hague's full speech from Guardian Unlimited Tuesday April 18, 2000

Britain has a long tradition of providing hospitality to men, women and children fleeing persecution. From Flemish Protestants seeking refuge from Spanish rule, to the Huguenots a century later, to the French émigrés escaping the guillotine, to the thousands of Jews escaping Russian pogroms and persecution in eastern Europe in the late nineteenth century, this country has given a safe home to people in fear of their lives. Not every refugee who came to our shores admired Britain's own social order or political institutions. Karl Marx dreamed of world revolution in the sanctuary of the Reading Room of the British Museum. But then, as Isaiah Berlin observed, in Britain "foreign revolutionaries were on the whole left unmolested, provided they behaved themselves in an orderly and inconspicuous manner." This tradition is rightly a source of national pride and it has also brought important benefits to our country. When Nazi tyranny drove many European Jews to our shores, Britain became home to some of the foremost mathematicians, scientists, historians and musicians of the age. Even in my own lifetime, we saw the arrival here of tens of thousands of Ugandan Asians, refugees from the dictatorship of Idi Amin. Ted Heath's decision that we keep our promise and let them settle here was brave, honourable and right. And those refugees from Uganda, with their skills, enterprise and diligence have contributed enormously to the prosperity and cultural and political life of our country. There is Tarique Ghaffur, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; Asif Din, the former Warwickshire cricketer; Manubhai Madhvani, the fantastically successful industrialist; and our own prospective parliamentary candidate in Northampton, Shailesh Vara. Each new group of settlers has enriched our islands. Each has widened and advanced our sense of what it means to be British. And I am determined that we should never abandon our proud tradition of offering sanctuary to those who are fleeing injustice and wrong.

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Amin's wife escapes jail for cockroach café

Tuesday, February 23, 1999 BBC

The former wife of one-time Ugandan ruler Idi Amin has escaped a jail sentence after pleading guilty to allowing cockroaches and mice to overrun her London café. Sarah Kyolaba Amin, 44, was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £1,000 towards prosecution costs by a judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London. She met the notorious former ruler of Uganda in the 1970s while serving as a go-go dancer with his army's Revolutionary Suicide Mechanised Regiment Band.

Sumptuous wedding

In 1975 she became his fifth wife. Their wedding banquet cost £2m and Mr Amin's best man was the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, then treated as an international pariah. Her husband - who later dubbed himself Field Marshal, King of Scotland and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa - cut the wedding cake with a sword. His eccentric and bizarre rule lasted for eight years from 1971, during which up to 300,000 Ugandans were murdered and thousands of Ugandan Asians were expelled.

Fled Uganda 20 years ago

Mrs Amin bore him a daughter, Hasafa - he is said to have fathered 43 children in all - and fled with him to Libya when he was toppled by Tanzanian troops in 1979. Mrs Amin, once known as Suicide Sarah, left her husband in 1982 and sought political asylum in Germany, where she spent time as a lingerie model. While he ended up in Jeddah, where he still lives under the protection of the Saudi Arabian Government, shelived in London, running a café serving African dishes such as goat stew and cow hoof in gravy. Mrs Amin, from Tottenham, north London, admitted seven counts under the 1990 Food Safety Act when she appeared in court on Tuesday. One of the charges Mrs Amin admitted was failing to ensure adequate procedures were in place to control mice and cockroaches at the restaurant.

Shocking conditions

She denied three similar charges and faces up to two years in jail. An environmental health officer from the London borough of Newham visited the Mrs Amin's S restaurant in Forest Gate on 5 November 1997. He was so shocked by what he found that he immediately closed it down. There was no soap, towels, hot water or ventilation, and a "grey furry thing" found in one corner was later identified as a decomposing mouse. It was allowed to reopen in December 1997 when the council issued a certificate confirming it "no longer posed an imminent risk to public health". Judge Deva Pillay told the smartly dressed divorcee people who committed "serial breaches" of the food safety laws usually go straight to prison.

'Dereliction of hygiene'

He said she was responsible for "long standing dereliction of hygiene and cleanliness" and had failed to obtain training in basic food hygiene when she took over the business in 1997. The judge said he had decided against a custodial sentence because she had no previous convictions, had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and had taken steps to improve her awareness of her responsibilities to the customer. He said she had "drastically" improved conditions at the café. But Judge Pillay warned her: "If you come before me again on a breach of food safety regulations within the next two years, as night follows day, you will go to prison."


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At Stansted Airport, it was cold and drizzling 25 years ago today when the first of the charter flights carrying 193 Asian refugees from Uganda landed. What the two pet parrots on board made of the transition from the African sun to the bleakness of an English autumn is not recorded. But Kanji Karsam, a 35-yr old building worker who was accompanied by his wife spoke of the terror that had been unleashed by Idi Amin, the Ugandan president. He had given the country's entire 50,000 Asian population, including the 30,000 British passport holders who were to come to the United Kingdom, 90 days to get out. Fleeing passengers had to pass through nine checkpoints mounted by Amin's soldiers on the Kampala-Entebbe highway. Some who resisted were shot. Interviewed after coming down the aircraft steps, Mr Karsam said: "We were dragged out of the car and stripped of my valuables and the little money I had. I am penniless and I have no plan." This was a common tale. To greet the arriving refugees, the newly-established Uganda Resettlement Board had laid out tea and ham sandwiches - scarcely suitable for vegetarians - and an assortment of second-hand overcoats. Then it was off for most to a camp 25 miles away at RAF Stradishall in Suffolk. Over the subsequent week, so many arrived that beds had to be shared. Leicester was designated a "red" area which the refugees were urged to avoid. "If you go there," an English community worker told an obstinate refugee, "we cannot help you". If you go to Leicester, "you won't be able to get a job or a house." A quarter of a century on, Uganda Asians are marking the anniversary of their arrival in the United Kingdom by saying thank you to the people of Britain. A British Asian Uganda Trust has been set up to raise money for British charities. The trust's logo shows an hour glass in which the Ugandan flag turns into the Union flag. Manubhai Madhavni, the chairman of the trust and himself the most respected business figure in the community with a personal fortune estimated at £140 million, recalled yesterday: "We came here 25 years ago full of anxiety to an unknown land. The British people extended a welcoming hand enabling us to make this country our home. Very few people tend to say thank you. We intend to be different." The British Airports Authority has agreed that a memorial should be built at the airport which processed 22,000 refugees. An inter-faith thanksgiving service, led by the Very Reverend Dr Westley Carr, Dean of Westminster Abbey on Nov 27. The leaders of the community, which embraced the corner-shop culture in Britain and helped to change the economic landscape of areas such as Brent, Harrow and Leicester, are going out of their way to pay tribute to their hero - Sir Edward Heath. As Prime Minister in 1972, he decided that Britain had a moral and legal obligation to admit British passport holders. But his decision was not universally popular and, in particular, as bitterly denounced by the Right-wing of the Conservative party led by Enoch Power. "He put his foot down," Madhvani said. 

"His was a bold decision." Sir Edward said yesterday: "It was not a difficult decision because it was absolutely the right one. The rest of the world could see that we were still a great, human country. It is a great credit to them that they fitted in so well." Another man whose courage is being recognised is Uganda's current president, Yoweri Museveni, who is to visit the Hindu Temple in Neasden, north London, on Oct 23. He will meet Asians expelled by Amin along with their British-born descendants. 


He will invite them to return "home" and help with the regeneration of the Ugandan economy. According to Professor George Kirya, Uganda's long-serving High Commissioner in London, President Museveni has publicly stated that Armin (now in exile in Saudi Arabia) badly damaged his country by expelling its Asian population. "Amin made a terrible mistake," said Prof Kirya. "President Musevni's visit to the temple says something about both sides. 'Let us, if not forget the past, at least forgive'" Among the more colourful personalities to emerge from the community is Lata Patel, who came as a 16 year old schoolgirl. She has just stepped down as Mayor of Brent. Nowhere has the impact of Uganda Asians been greater than in Leicester where the local newspaper, the Leicester Mercury, now has a daily Asian edition aimed at the very refugees it once strove to keep out. In Leicester, where Asians make up about a quarter of the population, the former refugees have become an economic and political force, revived the once-dying hosiery industry and created an estimated 30,000 jobs. 

The nostalgia of their parents' generation is not shared by the young for whom the commitment to Britain is total. In 1993, Tilusha Vyas, who had come as a girl of eight and spent "months and months" in a refugee in Weymouth, returned for a holiday to Uganda. Miss Vyas, now a BBC journalist, explained yesterday: "I wanted to put a ghost to rest. I found our house and in my imagination could hear my dog barking. It used to follow me to school. There were tears running down my eyes. And, then suddenly I realised, I was an outsider looking in." There is some concern that although the community has made an outstanding contribution to the British economy, involvement in the political and social life of Britain has been less passionate. "We should be raising money for British charities, not sending money back to charities in India." Mr Madhvani warned. "We are British and we should not repeat the mistakes of Africa.". 




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by Sanjay Suri,
India Abroad News Service

London, Sept 29 1997 - The Ugandan government is launching a major appeal aimed at Ugandan Asians settled here to return to the east African nation 25 years after they were thrown out by President Idi Amin.

President Musevini will address a meeting at the Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden next month to offer a series of incentives to Asians to return and bring back investment, skills and their business acumen, diplomatic sources said. Thousands of Asians, mostly Gujaratis, are expected to attend the meeting.

Many Asian businessmen are also expected to attend a dinner to be hosted for them by the President in a bid to start a process of obtaining substantial new investment. The sources said that President Musevini will offer incentives to businessmen to return.

About 60,000 Asians were expelled by President Amin from Uganda twenty five years ago and many of them came to Britain. Only a few hundred remained. The return now stops well short of a reverse exodus, but those going back are undeniably giving a major boost to the Ugandan economy.

An estimated 2,000 Asians have already returned to Uganda. "The flights to Uganda are half full of Asians returning to Uganda," Mr Danny M. Ssozi, Uganda's Deputy High Commissioner in London, told India Abroad News Service. Their number is expected to grow rapidly over the coming months and years, he said.

The Madhvani family alone, whose business interests range from agroprocessing to power production and tourism, accounts for eight per cent of the total annual tax income of Uganda. The group employs more than 15,000 people in the African nation. "Many other Asian businesses have put in a lot of money recently to build the Ugandan economy and its image," Mr Ssozi said.

The Asian input has helped stabilise the economy. Uganda's inflation rate is down to less than five per cent now from more than 300 per cent during the days of Idi Amin.

Coming to power in Uganda on January 25, 1971, Idi Amin ruled up to April 9, 1979. He ordered Asians out in August 1972 and they began to leave in thousands in September that year.

"The government is making sure that all Asians who were unfairly expelled can go back to Uganda," Mr Ssozi said. "That is their birthright," he said. "Idi Amin was a mad man, he had no right to expel them." For many who left, he said, "their hearts are still in Uganda and we welcome them back."

Mr Ssozi said the Ugandan government would like also to invite investment and business interest directly from India, not just from Ugandan Asians living in Britain and elsewhere. Trade between India and Uganda is also picking up, he said.

Liecester-based Nick Travels has launched a special tour programm for the rest of the year called Uganda Revisited. "We are seeing a great number of Ugandan Asians now wanting to return to Uganda," he told IANS.

Many of those returning are second generation Ugandans, he said. "Many of them are combining an interest in their parents' home with exploration of business possibilities," he said.

The Ugandan schilling is fully convertible and earnings can be freely translated into dollar earnings.

The Ugandan government is still offering repossession of property to Asians expelled 25 years ago. The Asians have the right to sell and take away their money, or invest it in Uganda. Increasingly, the more business minded Asians are beginning to invest in the African country where they find the returns better than in Britain.



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